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International Trends in

Government Accounting
Pawan Adhikari
Pawan.Adhikari@hibo.no
and
Frode Mellemvik

Bodø Graduate School of Business


Bodø University College,
8049 Bodø, Norway

Abstract
There is no standardized global framework for the adoption and implementation of accrual
government accounting. This has lead to a questioning of the consistency and
comparability of financial statements prepared and presented in different jurisdictions.
Two approaches are widespread which deal with the issue of financial consistency and
comparability across nations and organizations; the accounting approach and the statistical
approach. Whilst the former uses accounting standards for the preparation and presentation
of general purpose financial statements, the later emphasizes the statistical bases for
producing accounting information for economic analysis and policy making. Many
countries have adopted both approaches providing widely different financial
measurements. This seems not to be an effective way of using resources. However, there
are some promising bridges between them in applying and requiring consistent financial
information. Harmonizing these two systems into a single set of government reports is a
significant issue in international issue in public sector accounting.

Introduction
The last three decades have witnessed substantial efforts to re-invent the public sector
around the world. Public sector reform ideas, which started more as a political and
ideological phenomenon such ‘Thatcherism' (in the UK), 'Reagonomics' (in the USA), and
'Rodgernomics' (in New Zealand) are becoming a reality (Broadbent and Guthrie, 1992).
Collectively these public sector reform ideas have been referred to as ‘New Public
Management’ (Hood, 1995; Guthrie et al., 1998, 1999 and 2005). Couched in the language
of economic rationalism or neo-liberalism, new public management aims to replace the
Weberian approach to public administration with a management model, which is used in
private enterprises (Hood, 1995; Carlin, 2006).

International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008 39


Connolly and Hyndman (2006) state that new public management reforms underpin six
core elements in public sector governance: privatization, marketization, decentralization,
output orientation, quality systems, and intensity of implementation. A primary goal is to
boost efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability in public service delivery
and resource management. This has led governments to introduce cost improvement
programs, performance indicators, financial management information systems, financial
targets, delegated budgets and resource allocation rules (Arrington and Watkins, 2007;
Pettersen, 1999; Groot, 1999). Consequently, government agencies have been transformed
into competitive business units, and citizens have become customers (Chan, 2003). OECD
(2005) claims that contemporary governments in most OECD countries are more efficient,
more transparent, and more focused on performance than 20 years ago.

Business like governments or entrepreneur governments often use private sector financial
management techniques (Chan, 2003). Thus accounting reorientation has been part of new
public management reforms in several countries. Accrual accounting is probably the most
visible phenomena within this accounting reorientation, referred to as ‘New Public
Financial Management’ (Guthrie et al., 1998, 1999 and 2005; Lapsley, 1999). However,
the number of governments which have actually adopted accrual accounting is relatively
modest. Wynne (2007) lists only nine countries which had actually taken this step and,
although the IPSAS Board lists approximately 70 countries which have agreed to move
towards accrual accounting, only five of these are “Governments that already apply full
accrual accounting standards and apply accounting standards that are broadly consistent
with IPSAS requirements” (IFAC, 2007b, page 4). In addition, studies have shown that the
implementation of new financial public management, particularly the adoption of accrual
accounting has not been uniform nor pursued with discernible coordination (Guthrie et al.,
1998, 1999 and 2005). The types and degrees of accrual accounting vary significantly from
government to government. Moreover, while some countries have adopted accrual
accounting reforms at their central governments, others have embarked on reforms at local
levels and within government agencies.

There is no standardized global framework for the adoption and implementation of accrual
government accounting. This has lead to a questioning of the consistency and
comparability of financial statements prepared and presented in different jurisdictions.
Two approaches are widespread, which deal with the issue of financial consistency and
comparability across nations and organizations; the accounting approach and the statistical
approach. Whilst the former uses accounting standards for the preparation and presentation
of general purpose financial statements, the later emphasizes the statistical bases for
producing accounting information for economic analysis and policy making. With the
statistical approach, the IMF’s Government Financial Statistical Manual (GFS Manual) is
designed exclusively for the use of governments. All governments are required to submit
annual financial returns, or GFS tables, to the IMF in line with the GFS Manual. Although
it is accepted that not all governments, and especially those of developing countries, will
not be able to apply the accrual aspects of the 2001 manual (IMF, 2001). Many countries

40 International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008


have adopted both approaches providing widely different financial measurements. This
seems not be an efficient way of using resources. There are several conflicting areas
between these two approaches and consequently tensions between them. However, there
are some promising bridges between these two approaches in applying and requiring
consistent financial information. Harmonizing these two systems into a single set of
government reports is a significant international issue in international public sector
accounting.

The aim of this paper is to reflect international trends in government accounting by


describing ongoing endeavours to harmonize the accounting and statistical approaches to
financial reporting. In doing so, the paper reflects similarities and differences in these two
approaches and progress made in achieving convergence between them in recent years.
The paper proceeds as follows. The next section outlines the emergence of accrual
accounting in the public sector. The following two sections provide descriptions of the
accounting and the statistical bases of accounting with reference to the IPSASs and the
GFS Manual respectively. Ongoing attempts to harmonize these two bases of accounting
are then discussed in the section before the conclusion.

Evolution and Proliferation of Accrual Accounting


An aspect of new public management reforms is the move from cash to accrual accounting.
Cash and accrual accounting have different principles for recognizing, recording and
presenting financial information. While accrual accounting aims to recognize transactions
and other events when the associated goods or services are used, cash accounting records
transactions at the time cash is exchanged. Financial statements prepared and presented
under the accrual basis of accounting include the statement of financial position, the
statement of financial performance, the cash flow statement and the statement of change in
net assets/equity (IFAC, 2007a). A statement of cash receipts and payments is the primary
financial report under the cash basis, although many governments also provide a balance
sheet including financial assets (for example, bank balances) and liabilities (for example,
debts). Traditionally, governments have also provided detailed comparisons of actual
receipts and payments with their agreed annual budget.

Accrual accounting has long been the generally accepted accounting basis for the private
sector, whilst governments’ financial statements aimed to provide evidence of budgetary
compliance. The cash basis of accounting was used by governments to discharge their
accountability to parliament by showing that no money had been collected nor spent except
in ways and amounts approved by parliament (Barton, 2007). With the rise of new public
management, accrual accounting has been included as part of these reforms in at least
some developed countries. The introduction of accrual accounting may be considered
necessary to realize the potential benefits of new public management (FEE, 2006). Carlin
(2005) outlines the supposed superiority of accrual accounting and reporting compared to

International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008 41


cash in three related themes. Firstly, the adoption of accrual accounting enhances
transparency and accountability both externally and internally. Next, accrual accounting
leads to greater organizational performance and outputs though improved resource
allocation. And, lastly accrual accounting allows public entities to identify full costs of
their activities, which is pivotal to ensure greater efficiency. In contrast, others (for
example, Connolly and Hyndman (2006) and Mellett et al., (2007)) have found that these
presumed benefits have not been realized in practice.
The current moves towards accrual accounting, which began to take place in the late
1980s, primarily in Australia and New Zealand, is now claimed to be a global trend
(although it has been used in some significant public sector jurisdictions for at least 150
years (Wynne, 2007)). Presently, more than half of the OECD member countries use some
form of accrual accounting in their different administrative hierarchies (Matheson, 2002).
Although the actual level of implementation, in central government ministries at least, has
been relatively modest. Accrual accounting is also being introduced in some international
organizations. The European Commission has been developing its general purpose
financial statements on the accrual basis since 2005 (FEE, 2006). The UN aims to practice
a full fledged accrual based system by 2010 (PWC, 2006). Other international
organizations such as the OECD, IFAC, NATO and Interpol are in the process of
implementing the accrual basis International Public Sector Accounting Standards. The
main international frameworks for the statistical approaches to accounting, including the
UN’s 1993 System of National Accounts, the European System of Accounts 95 and the
IMF GFS Manual, have, in recent years, also adopted the accrual basis.

What is conspicuous, however, is the existence of multiple intermediary degrees of accrual


accounting across countries and organizations. Chan (2003) categorizes these diversified
forms of accrual accounting into four sub-groups; mild, moderate, strong and radical
accrual. With mild accrual only short-term financial assets and liabilities are disclosed.
Moderate accrual includes both the short term and long term financial assets and liabilities
(and has actually been adopted by many governments broadly characterised as adopting the
cash basis). In addition to short and long term assets and liabilities, strong accrual includes
various categories of capital assets on the balance sheet. Radical accruals also reports
legislated entitlement benefits as liabilities (for example, the cost of future state pensions).
Countries have also adopted different methods for valuing assets ranging from original
cost to value in use. The adoption of these varying degrees of accrual accounting has
resulted in heterogeneity and inconsistency in the preparation and presentation of financial
statements between jurisdictions.

At the national government level, there are two approaches which aim to reduce these
ambiguities in financial reporting; the accounting approach and the statistical approach.
The former consists of accounting standards, particularly International Public Sector
Accounting Standards. The statistical approach is dominated by the IMF’s GFS Manual.
The existence of these two systems has created tensions and questions about which sets of
figures to accept and use, especially for countries preparing financial statements by

42 International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008


applying both approaches. In recent years, academicians, professional accountants and
users have been looking at the possible convergence between these two approaches to
accrual accounting. An International Task Force on the Harmonization of Public Sector
Accounting (TFHPSA) has been the forum to address this convergence.

An Accounting Approach to Harmonizing Government Accounting Practices


Globalization is credited with, among other things, the shrinking of the world and the
interdependence of major national economies (Barrett et al., 2005). This is striking also in
the government sector because governments today are not confined within their specified
territories. In fact, they have penetrated the global capital markets by issuing large debts
and holding significant equity investments. Their transactions are exerting an immediate
and substantial impact on multiple markets simultaneously. Additional to preparing and
presenting reliable and transparent accounting reports for sound decision making,
governments are therefore forced to reduce the prevailing diversities and inconsistencies in
accounting. These weaken the comparability of government financial information and
make the interpretation of financial statements difficult for holders of government debt
instruments (Alijarde, 2003).

Public sector accounting standards are often envisaged as a panacea in dealing with these
perceived diversities in financial reporting. Some countries, for instance, Australia and
New Zealand, have adopted a sector neutral approach and imposed IFRSs both for private
and public entities (Barton, 2007). There is however a growing interest on International
Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSASs), especially after the WTO’s Singapore
declaration in 1996, which acknowledged IFAC as the ‘setters of international standards
for the accounting profession’ (Humphrey et al., 2006). The International Public Sector
Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB) (formerly the Public Sector Committee) is the
mandated body for issuing IPSASs under the auspicious of the International Federation of
Accountants (IFAC).

The IPSASB has issued 26 accrual basis IPSASs and a comprehensive cash basis IPSAS.
IPSASs specify criteria to recognize, measure, present and disclose transactions and events
in general purpose financial statements tailored to meet the demand of users that are unable
to ask for special information, for instance, taxpayers, members of legislature, creditors,
suppliers, the media and employees (IFAC, 2007a). The accrual basis IPSASs are to a
large extent based on the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs). They
interpret the relevant IFRSs for the public sector, but also deal with those issues that are
either not addressed in the existing IFRSs or those issues for which there is no IFRSs.

The purpose of the cash basis IPSAS, i.e. ‘Financial Reporting under the Cash Basis of
Accounting’, is to improve the quality of cash statements, primarily the statements of cash
receipts and payments. The introduction of the cash basis IPSAS was seen as “an important
step forward in improving the consistency and comparability of financial reporting under
the cash basis of accounting” (Cash Basis IPSAS page 1). However, the IPSASB also

International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008 43


encourages governments to progress to the accrual basis of accounting. In addition to cash
disclosures the cash IPSAS therefore encourages public sector entities to disclose
voluntarily accrual-based information about assets and liabilities (paragraph 2.1.34 of the
Cash IPSAS).

Some of the benefits of IPSASs include the application of the consistence and coherent
financial reporting systems, both within a country and between countries, and the potential
harmonization of financial reporting across jurisdictions (Adhemar, 2006). However, these
attributes are undermined by the fact that so few governments have actually adopted the
standards that are broadly consistent with IPSAS (IFAC, 2007b: page 4). According to
Chan (2005), developing countries are the primary potential users of IPSASs. The major
resource suppliers to developing nations such as the World Bank, the Asian Development
Bank, and the UN have endorsed IPSASs for use in accounting for the financial assistance
they offer. Reports on the accounting and auditing gap assessment, prepared by the World
Bank for the South Asian countries, for instance, show that all South Asian countries
(Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) are
either making or are committed to make a transition towards IPSASs, although it is likely
that they will only adopt accrual accounting within the long term (Subramanian, 2007). In
addition to developing countries, a few other countries that have already issued accounting
standards for their public entities are considering IPSASs an input in the development of
new standards or in the revision of existing standards in recent years (Dupuis et al., 2006).

Apart from issuing IPSASs and promoting convergence of IPSASs with IFRSs, the
IPSASB is involved with two other programmes in co-operation with a number of national
standards setters and international organizations. One of these includes the development of
a public sector accounting conceptual framework. The framework that is anticipated to be
completed by 2011 aims at aligning public sector accounting standards in many countries
with IPSASs (IPSASB, 2006). The second programme is related to harmonizing IPSASs
and the statistical bases of financial reporting, especially the IMF’s GFS Manual. The
harmonization between these two bases of accounting is necessary to minimize the
duplication of efforts in producing information for different reporting approaches and
improving the reliability of accounting information.

A Statistical Approach to Producing Government Accounting Information


The IMF's Government Financial Statistics Manual (GFS Manual 2001) describes a
statistical model for developing and presenting government financial information (IMF,
2001). The GFS Manual is actually the lynchpin of international statistical standards
(Dublin, 2006). The manual is largely harmonized with other macroeconomic statistical
systems including the UN’s 1993 System of National Accounts (1993 SNA): 1993 Balance
of Payments Manual, fifth edition: the European System of Accounts 1995 (ESA 95): and
the Monitory and Financial Statistics Manual (2000) (Laliberte, 2004). Additionally, the
GFS Manual has adopted a number of interrelated statements from the 1993 SNA that
integrate flows and stocks.

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The IMF emphasizes the importance of the GFS Manual in terms of ensuring
accountability and transparency in government finances, operations and oversight. The
manual provides guidance on compiling detailed fiscal statistics on the general government
sector and analyzing the impacts of the government’s operations on other sectors of the
economy. The fiscal statistics required by the GFS Manual basically demonstrate resource
mobilization, monetary condition, national indebtedness, the level of tax, tariff protection
and the social safety net (IMF, 2001). Such statistics are necessary to delineate a
government’s overall contribution to aggregate national demand, investment, and saving.
Moreover, they can also be used to report and evaluate the effectiveness of a government’s
spending, the sustainability of fiscal policies, net debt, net wealth and contingent claims
against governments.

The GFS Manual 2001 updates the earlier manual (1986 GFS Manual) in five main areas;
coverage, basis of recording, valuation, balance sheet and integration of flows and stocks.
The GFS Manual 2001 defines the general government sector, which is its main coverage,
on the basis of institutional units analogous to that used in the 1993 SNA. In contrast, the
1986 GFS Manual adopted a functional basis and incorporates the transactions of any unit
within the boarder public sector performing a function of government. While the 1986
GFS Manual is developed on the cash basis, the GFS Manual 2001 adopts the accrual
basis. The GFS Manual 2001 uses current market prices for the valuation of assets,
liabilities, net worth and other economic flows. The 1986 GFS Manual differs in the way
that debt securities are to be valued; the amounts which the government is obligated to pay
when the debts mature. Such amounts often vary from the current market value. Another
divergence between the two manuals exists on the presentation of the balance sheet. The
GFS Manual 2001 requires the presentation of a more comprehensive balance sheet, which
should include all financial assets, non-financial assets, liabilities, and net worth. In
contrast, the 1986 Manual incorporates only the stocks of certain debt liabilities onto the
balance sheet. The GFS Manual 2001 therefore permits governments to integrate their
flows and stocks and reconcile variations between the opening and closing balance sheets,
which are not possible from the approach outlined in the 1986 GFS Manual without the
collection of additional information.

The analytical frameworks and balancing items required by the GFS Manual 2001 are
concerned with providing a range of possibilities on fiscal liquidity and sustainability
issues. The manual is built upon four analytical statements: statement of government
operations, statement of other economic flows, balance sheet, and statement of sources and
uses of cash. The statement of government operations includes summary information on all
transactions during an accounting period and derives analytical balances from this
information. The second statement, i.e. the statement of other economic flows, portrays
changes in net worth. The balance sheet presents the stocks of assets, liabilities and net
worth at the beginning and the end of the fiscal year. The last statement, i.e. the statement

International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008 45


of sources and uses of cash, is meant to reflect cash flows from operations and other
transactions related to assets and liabilities.

Incorporated in these four statements, the main balancing items of the GFS Manual 2001
are net operating balance, net lending/borrowing, and net worth. The net operating balance
provides a summary of the effects of a government’s transactions on net worth, which is
derived by subtracting revenues from expenses. Another balancing item, i.e. net lending/
borrowing is calculated by deducting the net acquisition of nonfinancial assets from the net
operating balance. The balance of net lending/borrowing reflects the extent to which
governments either provide financial resources to the other sectors of the economy and the
rest of the world (net lending) or consume resources produced by the other sectors (net
borrowing) (Bjorgvinsson, 2004). The final item, net worth, is meant to show a variation
between governments' total assets and total liabilities (although, like other systems, the
right to tax, the largest asset of almost all governments, is ignored). These balancing items
along with the analytical frameworks used in the GFS Manual 2001 show that the later is
more focused on an economic sector rather than an entity which is the focus for accounting
standards.

Harmonization of the Accounting and Statistical Bases of Accounting


As discussed above, the IPSASs and IFRSs are the accounting approaches to financial
reporting. The accounting approaches are intended to serve those users, who are not in a
position to express their specific needs, by providing information in a format and context
they can best understand (DiPiazza et al., 2006). The statistical approach presents another
way of financial reporting that enable policymakers and analysts to study the economic and
financial developments in the general government sector or the public sector in a consistent
and systematic manner (IFAC, 2005). The 1993 System of National Accounts (1993 SNA)
- produced jointly by the UN, IMF, the European Commission, the OECD and the World
Bank - is the overarching model for macroeconomic statistics. The 1993 SNA provides a
frame for the detailed description of the total national economy and its components
including the general government sector and its relations with other sectors and economies.
Other internationally acknowledged statistical models, for instance, the European System
of Accounts (ESA 95) and the GFS Manual 2001 are largely consistent with the 1993
SNA. The 1993 SNA is being updated with the objective of publishing a revision in 2008.

The accounting and statistical bases for reporting financial information possess a number
of similarities as well as differences. They offer some promising bridges as they represent
a collective effort by international organizations to contribute both to the accounting
profession and economic growth and development of a nation. Each of these systems
provides a distinct perspective on the same underlying economic realities (Laliberte, 2004).
The national accounts, for instance, portray a macro reading of the economic activities of
entities, which are presented in accounting statements at the micro level. While accounting

46 International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008


data provides a basis for the production of national accounts, the aggregated statistics
envisage the economic events, which are to be measured by accounting statements. These
two bases of accounting have also many similarities in the recognition and measurement of
financial information due to the adoption of accrual principles, and in some cases have a
similar type of report structure (IFAC, 2005).

Despite some similarities, the two systems of accounting can be differentiated substantially
in terms of objectives and scope (Laliberte, 2004). Accountability and decision making are
the primary objectives of accounting statements. On the other hand, the objective of the
statistical reporting bases is to provide economic data by describing the behavior of all the
economic units of a national economy. The reporting unit for the statistical guidelines is
defined by an economic sector, which consists of an institutional entity or a group of
entities (Dupuis et al., 2006). In contrast, the accounting statements incorporate and report
the financial results of individual entities and collections of such entities. While the
statistical bases are top down the accounting approaches are bottom up starting with
individual entities. Moreover, these two bases of accounting can also be differentiated on
the basis of ownership relationships and recognition and measurement of assets, liabilities
and net equity (IFAC, 2005).

Technological and methodological differences are however envisaged not only between the
accounting and statistical approaches but also among the statistical bases, particularly
between the GFS Manual 2001 and the other statistical approaches, despite attempts at
harmonization. The GFS Manual, for instance, is more focused on fiscal analysis and deals
with statistics related to financial operations, financial position and liquidity situation
within the general government sector. The manual addresses financial transactions related
to taxing, spending, borrowing and lending. In contrast, the other statistical bases cover the
entire public sector. They are designed for economic analysis and therefore demonstrate
the balance of payments and monetary and financial statistics, which report the production
and consumption of goods and services. Table 1 summarizes the existing differences
between the GFS Manual and the other statistical bases.

Table 1. Differences between the GFS Manual and the Other Statistical Bases

Areas The GFS Manual The 1993 SNA, ESA 95 and the
Other Statistical Bases
Objective Fiscal analysis (cover the Economic analysis (cover the
performance of the general broader public sector).
government sector).
Coverage Taxing, spending, borrowing and Production and consumption of
lending goods and services.
Design For statistics related to the financial For the balance of payments and
operations, financial position and monetary and financial statistics.
liquidity situation.

International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008 47


The variations between the GFS Manual and the other statistical bases, and accounting
bases for financial reporting have confused the users of financial reports (IFAC, 2005).
The demand for convergence between these reporting systems is therefore increasing. It is
suggested that ‘convergence would minimize costly duplication of efforts in producing
information for different reporting bases’ (IFAC, 2005, Page 15). In that way, it could
offer an efficient way of using resources. Additionally, it is seen that the reports produced
under the different bases are purported to reflect the same economic phenomena using
accrual principles but with different results. Convergence is therefore emphasized also to
improve the reliability of the information.

The International Task Force on Harmonization of Public Sector Accounting (TFHPSA) is


in operation since 2003 in order to address this issue of achieving convergence. The task
force consists of senior statisticians and public sector accountants from various countries,
and representatives of international and regions agencies (European Central bank, Eurostat,
IMF, IFAC-IPSASB, OECD and World Bank). It is tasked with examining ways of
minimizing unnecessary differences between the accounting and statistical approaches to
financial reporting (IFAC, 2005). The task force has also been the forum for making
recommendations to various groups including the IPSASB and IMF involved in providing
inputs to the update of the System of National Accounts 1993 (1993 SNA) by 2008.
Chaired by the IMF, the task force operates on the basis of two working groups (WGs).
WG I, led by the IPSASB, deals with the harmonization issues between the accounting and
statistical standards, particularly between the IPSASs and the GFS Manaul 2001. It also
monitors the convergence activities of international accounting and statistical bodies
responsible for setting financial reporting requirements. WG II, on the other hand, focuses
on issues related to the harmonization of the GFS Manual 2001 and the 1993 SNA/ESA95.
The group, which is chaired by the OECD, also provides inputs to the revision of the 1993
SNA (IFAC, 2005).

The WGI has in recent years made a number of recommendations for achieving
convergence between the accounting and statistical approaches to reporting financial
information. The primary one is concerned with the development of IPSASs that allow
disclosure of information about the general government sector (as defined in the statistical
approaches) in whole of government general purpose financial statements (IFAC, 2005).
Another recommendation is the development or amendment of IPSASs that will require or
allow the adoption of current values in IPSASs. Moreover, the working group has
demonstrated the need for formulating a long term project on reporting financial
performance that integrates the distinction between transactions and other economic flows
adopted by the statistical approaches. At the same time, the working group has also
envisaged some differences, which may not be overcome in the longer term due to the
different objectives and focuses of the accounting and statistical financial reporting bases.
The major issues in which these differences are identified include; accounting for
controlled, determination of net assets/equity and contributions from owners, tax effect

48 International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008


accounting, investment in associates, biological assets and formats and presentation of the
statement of financial performance, among others. In the longer term it is therefore
emphasized to develop a reconciliation statement to deal with these differences and to
illustrate the relationship between accounting and statistical reporting bases (IFAC, 2005).

Conclusion
The adoption of accrual accounting has often been integral to New Public Management
reforms over the past few decades. This transition towards accrual accounting has been the
subject of considerable debate drawing arguments both in support for and against the
project. There is however a great variation in the approaches adopted for accrual
accounting, even in the few countries which have implemented such reforms. This has led
to ambiguities in the comprehension of financial statements between governments. IFAC
has been exhorting the governments to consider the use of IPSASs as a possible remedy to
these variations in financial reporting. In contrast, a number of organizations are preparing
and promoting statistical approaches, which emphasise macroeconomic developments in
the government sector. The IMF presents the GFS Manual 2001, as a basis of financial
reporting by governments. While there are many similarities, there are also many
differences and tensions between these approaches to financial reporting. Many
governments have in fact adopted both the systems of reporting. In recent years, the issue
of achieving convergence between the accounting and statistical approaches to reporting
has gained increased international attention. The TFHPSA is actively seeking convergence
between the accounting and statistical approaches and also between the different statistical
bases. Ongoing reforms and concerns on achieving convergence have eventually made
public sector accounting an international issue and an emerging arena for further research.

International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008 49


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52 International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008


GOVERNMENT FINANCE
STATISTICS IN TURKEY
Prof. Dr. Necdet SAGLAM
Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences
Anadolu University, Turkey
nsaglam@anadolu.edu.tr

Introduction
The foundation of modern public financial reporting lies in the communication of financial
information about the government’s activities to its citizens and their representatives in
parliament. This information should refer to the activities of public administrators for the
entire state, covering pre-determined periods. This is a key aspect of the accountability of
the Government and its administration to parliament and the electorate more widely. It is
increasingly a requirement of international obligations as required by, for example, the
IMF and the European Union.

In Turkey there will be challenges in providing financial information in the required


formats. These will include technical, legal, financial data quality and consolidation of
financial data, human resources etc. In this study some of these problems are investigated
and ideas are offered clear to help the authorities in harmonizing the two systems.

The study provides a literature review of Government Finance Statistics and Disclosures in
international and local level and interviews with key persons in Turkey. The next section
introduces the statistical approaches to financial reporting developed by the UN and IMF.
The third section considers the differences between the international public sector
accounting standards and this statistical approach. The fourth section considers the
approach adopted by Turkish Governments for accounting and financial reporting. The
paper ends with a conclusion.

Financial Reporting in Government Sector


The Structure of the Public Sector
Government structures are generally more complex than the structures of private sector
organisations. Figure 1 illustrates1 common government levels and sectors. Budgeting and
accounting methods have generally differed between levels and sectors—for instance,

1
http://www.adb.org/Documents/Reports/Accrual_Budgeting_Accounting/chap02.pdf

International Journal on Governmental Financial Management – 2008 53